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Futures bode well for the market, and the S&P 500 surged at the open yesterday on fewer than expected unemployment claims. And 30 minutes after the markets opened, we got two more pieces of good news: 1) the ISM Manufacturing Business Activity Index showed a second month of expansion, albeit weak, and 2) Consumer Confidence strengthened. The index rose further, hitting its intraday high just before lunch. The question was ... would the afternoon hold the gains? And the answer was "yes". The index closed the day with a 1.09% gain, just fractionally off its mid-day high.

Here is a 5-minute chart of Thursday's liftoff and rally.

(click to enlarge)

And here is an hourly chart of of Q4 so far.

(click to enlarge)

The index is now up 13.52% for 2012. From a longer-term perspective, the S&P 500 is 111.0% above the March 2009 closing low and 8.8% below the nominal all-time high of October 2007.

For a better sense of how these declines figure into a larger historical context, here's a long-term view of secular bull and bear markets in the S&P Composite since 1871.